Select Page

The Future of Water Security in the Indus River Basin: Risks and Opportunities

Casey Brown
Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Chair: John BriscoeProfessor of the Practice of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Environmental Engineering, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Co-sponsored with the Harvard University Center for the Environment

The future of Pakistan is closely tied to the future of the Indus River.  Pakistan relies on the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world, the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) for its basic food security and water supply for all sectors of the economy. The agriculture sector supported by this system plays a critical role in the national economy and livelihoods of rural communities. Water security is thus critical to the future of Pakistan.  The Indus basin, like other complex river basins, faces a common set of institutional and policy challenges, including international treaty tensions over upstream development, sectoral conflicts across water, agriculture, environment, climate, and energy agencies at the national level, low water productivity in agriculture, and inter-provincial water competition.  Amid this context the basin faces a variable and potentially changing climate. The study uses a variety of methods to assess plausible futures for the Indus and Pakistan’s hydro-economy.  This study will present a hydro-economic model of the Indus River within Pakistan that simulates river and canal flows, water use and economic activities with a distributed, partial equilibrium model of the local scale agro-economic activities in the basin. Results suggest that the current governance mechanisms have significant effects on the provinces’ ability to adapt to changing climate conditions, inflicting different economic costs under both high and low flow conditions. Alternatively, a governance mechanism that prioritizes national scale water productivity over provincial and scale water allocation largely mitigates the effect of possible climate changes. Tradeoffs between the competing national and provincial scale are explored in the context of water governance mechanisms that facilitate adaptation to a changing climate.

For the write-up of this event, please click here.